Ranjith doesn’t do this often - go for movies, watch a film with hundreds of people erupting with joy as Rajinikanth comes on screen. He is, however, a Rajinikanth fan.
On Saturday, Ranjith makes an exception and goes to Satyam theatre to watch “Kabali”. This Class XII student of Nethrodaya School in Chennai can barely contain his excitement.
Unlike the Superstar’s legion of fans, Ranjith is not waiting to see the actor’s stylish walk or the rapid hand gestures that send the crowds to a frenzy.
Ranjith is here to hear Rajinikanth speak. The curly-haired, diffident young man is from Namakkal and has been visually impaired from birth. For him, “Kabali” doesn’t begin with Rajinikanth swaggering out of jail – it begins with the Thalaivar’s laugh. His face lights up and goose-bumps rise on his arm.
Until then, the film is just good background music.
Ranjith prefers to watch Rajinikanth movies on his computer when the CDs are out, instead of going to the theatre as he cannot hear anything amidst the noise made by overzealous fans.
He first “watched” Rajinikanth’s “Padayappa” when he was four years of age. From then on he has watched every Rajinikanth movie. “I like Vijay too. Kaththi is a movie I enjoyed,” he gushed.
Generally, when Ranjith watches movies, he is only able to grasp the gist of the movie and not the whole plot. “For me, movies are all about the concept, comedy and the background music,” he says, although he’s able to recognize actors by their voice most times.
"My friends keep talking about Rajinikanth's style of walking, they really like it," says Ranjith. Does Ranjith feel left out? "No, I love hearing his laugh and I'm content with that," he says.
On the other hand, Thyagaraj (24), who is also visually impaired, goes to the theatre often. He’s there too, on Saturday, to catch the special screening for 700 visually impaired people organized by Radio Mirchi.
Thyagaraj lost his vision when he was 12 years old. He is currently pursuing B.Ed from a central government college and has completed his Bachelor’s in Tamil from Presidency College in Chennai.
Thyagaraj is able to recognize actors by their voice and visualize them with the faint memories of movies he watched in his childhood.
As the film progresses, a background voice describes each scene so the audience understands what’s going on. A unique experience for them. “For the first time, I was able to understand the whole movie, plot and the concept. It was a thrilling experience,” says Ranjith.
Thyagaraj feels that visually impaired people can grasp only 50 percent of a movie. “When I usually watch a movie, I keep asking people sitting around me what is happening on the screen,” he says.
Like Ranjith, Thyagaraj too loves Rajinikanth – his favourites being “Baasha” and “Padayappa” – but the love is not only for the actor’s style and punchlines but also for his humility and helpful nature. “People around me keep talking about Rajinikanth’s style, dance and dialogues. I can imagine dance and style only by listening to the background music,” he says.
Who are the other actors who’ve captured their imagination? For Ranjith, it is Vijay. He enjoyed “Kaththi” a lot since the movie talks about water conservation and carries an important message – something he feels is necessary in cinema. For Ranith, “Movies tell us what to do and what not to do in life” and that’s why he enjoys socially relevant films. Vijay’s films with plentiful fighting sequences and catchy dialogues excite him.
Thyagaraj dearly loves actor “Suriya” and tries to catch his movies on the first day of their release. His favourite Suriya movie is “Aadhavan”.
Ranjith feels that people who have the ability to see don’t appreciate it enough. “People with vision don’t interact much with the visually impaired, so they do not understand what it means to have the gift of vision,” he says.
The entertainment options for visually impaired people are very limited. “We cannot even watch a movie properly, our only constant source of entertainment is music through radio channels,” sighs Thyagaraj.
The founder of the NGO, Nethrodaya, C Govindakrishnan, feels that visually impaired people must be included in everything that is happening around them. “If it is about movies, the producers should allow including background voices in the movies so that visually impaired people can also enjoy it,” he says.
Ranjith, Thyagaraj and the hundreds of others who enjoyed “Kabali” cannot agree more. This screening is one that they will remember and cherish for many more years.
Edited by Sowmya Rajendran